Saturday, July 21, 2012


We have been talking a great deal on Saturday mornings about endurance.  In fact, today we turned to a discussion of enduring through suffering.

We live in a day and age of "easy buttons" and as a consequence we don't much like to talk about suffering for Christ anymore.  We want an easy walk, an easy life and an easy Christianity.  The problem, of course, is that Jesus promised us many things, but "easy" wasn't one of them.

As Saul (later Paul) was headed down the road in his blinded state, the Lord appointed a disciple in Damascus named Ananias to greet Saul when he arrived there.  Ananias had heard about Saul's persecution of the Church, and questioned God's call -- I guess just to double check that God had the right guy!

At that point, the Lord let Ananias in on a little secret.  Part of the secret was that Paul was going to carry the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, to their kings and to the people of Israel.   The other part of the secret was that Paul was going to suffer for the name of Jesus.  

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:13-16 (NIV 1984)

We know that Ananias prayed for Paul, and that Paul was in that moment filled with the Holy Spirit.  What we don't know is whether Ananias told Paul about his conversation with the Lord -- particularly the part about the suffering.  I wonder how Paul would have responded to that news?

But, suffer Paul did!  And, Paul tells us of his suffering many times in his epistles.  But, his purpose is not to warn us in the sense of telling us how to avoid pitfalls.  His purpose is to prepare us for the trials and pitfalls that inevitably come.

The truth is that each of us will be tested.  But, God uses testing to our advantage, and more importantly to His advantage.  Testing produces perseverance, character and maturity.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4.

A life lived for Jesus is not an easy life.  When Jesus warns us to count the cost of following Him (see, Luke 14:25-34) these are not idle words.  And, like it or not, suffering for Christ is part of the journey.

Fortunately, Jesus does not expect us to walk through any hardships alone.  He gives us His Holy Spirit and He gives us each other. 

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